List MSP wins road safety award

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Road safety charity Brake and Direct Line have awarded Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart the Parliamentarian of the Month Award for his campaign to introduce Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) and improve the safety of young drivers.

In June 2010, Mr Stewart launched a campaign group, ‘North of Scotland Driving Awareness Team’ to stop young people dying on Scottish roads. His interest began after hearing about a crash in Inverness involving young drivers in which Callum Matheson, 17, and Ahlee Jackson, 17, died.

He met Callum’s mother, Diane Matheson. He was moved by her story and felt he had to set up a campaign for GDL. Among his demands are legislation to make it compulsory for young drivers who have just passed their test display the ‘P’ plate on their vehicles for 90 days and that young drivers complete a one day pass plus driving course.

Mr Stewart also wants to look at the possibility of limiting the number and age of young passengers being carried in a vehicle by a new driver. The messages of the campaign are ‘Sensible Driving – Always Arriving’ and ‘Your Passengers – Your Responsibility.’

In August 2010, Mr Stewart held a meeting with the Road Haulage Association, Advanced Driving Instructors and other interested parties. They discussed how best to improve road safety for young people throughout the Scottish region.

They agreed that they would work together to raise awareness of the issue and get the message across to young drivers and passengers. By September 2010 there were many initiatives already being put into practice.

In one such initiative, posters were displayed in 180 Stagecoach buses throughout the highlands. The posters addressed young driver behaviour and urged passengers to have the confidence to get out of a car if they feel worried about how the vehicle is being driven.

As well as setting up the campaign and working with industry and the community, David also wrote to the Scottish Transport Minister, Stewart Stevenson and Westminster based Transport Secretary, Phillip Hammond. David has also raised two motions in the Scottish Parliament and he has asked the Scottish Government a series of Parliamentary Questions (PQs) on this issue.

In October 2010, Doctor Sarah Jones from Cardiff University gave further backing for the campaign. Dr Jones carried out several years of research into Graduated Driver Licensing, revealing that 22 lives each year could be saved if GDL was introduced in Scotland. GDL could also prevent 1,056 road injuries and save the Scottish economy £80 million.

On 13 December 2010, Miss Inverness helped David Stewart launch ‘Deadly Mates’, their newest campaign, by revealing the ‘Deadly Mates’ campaign car which carried the team to events across Scotland to educate young drivers. ‘Deadly Mates’ leaflets were also handed out at the launch.

His team then got busy urging the public to sign a petition calling the Scottish Government to put in place GDL for new drivers. On 27 December 2010, the petition went online after 500 signatures were collected by team members on the streets in just six hours. To sign the petition, go to www.sensibledriving.org.uk.

Mr Stewart commented: “I am delighted to receive this award but it is not only for me but for my campaign team. Making our roads safer for drivers of all ages and pedestrians is a cause I am proud to follow and I will continue to try to do this.”

Julie Townsend, Brake’s campaigns director, said: “Nearly one in five young Scottish people who tragically die, do so in entirely avoidable road crashes. That is why Graduated Driver Licensing is such an important bit of legislation. We know it will save lives so there is no excuse for delay. We applaud David Stewart for his concerted efforts to push forward young driver safety.”